As the new year begins, I have been thinking about the importance of hope. For me, losing hope and then regaining hope is very tied to health. I know I am not alone when, for instance, hearing a challenging diagnosis can be the impetus for a momentary (or longer) loss of hope.
When that happens, we risk losing our belief that who we think we are is still who we are. If we think of ourselves as hopeful, optimistic, always looking at the bright side, when we lose hope, our whole identity comes into question. We need to accept the loss of hope, explore what it is about, and figure out how to rebuild hope based on where we are at this time. We may not have a “hopeful” scenario but we can still have “hope.” We need to find ways to address our challenges in smart, healthy, imaginative ways. I spite of everything, we can still have goals.
Hope gives us the ability to face problems with an attitude that we will accomplish what it is we have as our goal. We keep our sights both on where we are and where we want to go. We alter and adapt our strategies needed to as we move along the path. We believe there are different ways to get to where we need to go and we are open to this exploration as we encounter various obstacles.
The Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” We can alter what it is we hope for. When we learn of a difficult diagnosis, we can hope for discovering ways to deal with what lies ahead with courage, patience, and appreciation.
Each of us can think of what it would mean to begin this year with hope. Regardless of our circumstance, we have the ability to have hope.
Hope, like kindness, changes our brain in positive ways. Endorphins (the same neurochemicals that are released when we perform acts of kindness) are released when we feel hopeful. These and enkephalins, which are also released, are often referred to as natural painkillers. Aside from keeping our attitude positive, these help us to heal.
Hope helps us to move toward recovery. They are inextricably connected. We have EVERYTHING to gain by keeping hope alive. True hope. When we lose hope, accept the fact. Acknowledge it. Then we can have fresh ground upon which to have new hope take root.